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Mariam Issa

Mariam Issa’s refugee experience is a powerful and positive one.

It’s a journey of inspiring resilience and strength.  When she arrived in Melbourne from her Somali homeland in 1998, she had a husband, four children and a fifth on the way, with little knowledge of Australian life, other than the motivation to provide a secure, safe future with her family. In her book Mariam talks of her experiences of Integration, refugee issues, new beginnings and the power of community.

In 2012 Mariam launched RAW (Resilient Aspiring Women) – a not-for-profit organisation to create better social environments for all women. RAW is a platform, a community garden and a meeting place for all women in her backyard Brighton home. Through Community, Culture and Cuisine one of RAW’s popular workshops Mariam uses again her love for food and shares the flavours of her East African heritage. Previously Mariam owned a successful catering and cooking class business, aimed at showcasing and educating the main stream community about the wealth of other nations.

Food is a great catalyst to create social change and Mariam feels privileged she can use this power to her advantage and connect communities.

“I share my traditional East African menus with Australians so we can come together and help make a difference” she says.

Mariam has appeared on SBS, Channel 7, ABC Radio, Community Radio, in the Herald Sun, The Australian, local press and RACV magazine and was recently awarded the Ambassador of Peace award from the Universal Peace Federation – in recognition of her ongoing work as a tireless community worker promoting peace and harmony in Melbourne’s culturally diverse population.

“From where I began, I have reinvented myself and evolved. I want to share my knowledge and experience with others,” she says.

Today, firmly established in the tight-knit bayside suburb of Brighton, Mariam shares her stories widely and very passionately about holistic integration, social justice, women issues and strengthening communities.


I wanted to express how moving and powerful Mariam’s speech was last Wednesday! Out of all the speakers you have had over the years, none have been so emotionally charged, for me personally.

The content was perfect for the times we are living in, with disease & wars (Palestine/Israel, Ukraine/Russia, Syrian/Iraq Militants, West Africa outbreak of Ebola etc etc etc) her words of peace and one world just made me cry.

I could not stop the tears running down my face.

—Kirsty Balla, Administrative Services Coordinator, Facilities & Services Division, Monash University

Mariam has a beautiful and inspiring outlook on life, and a rare ability to share her values and ideals with an audience. Her life story is extraordinary; characterised by an unwavering determination to gain an education, make a contribution, support her family and build a sense of community. Born in Somalia, raised in Kenya and relocated to Australia as a refugee, Mariam has a rich cultural heritage and an array of inspiring stories, which readily connect and resonate with people. I have no hesitation in recommending her to any organisiation looking for an engaging speaker.

—Nathan Jessup, Director of Leadership, Melbourne Grammar School

Enquire about booking Mariam Issa